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Student who beat cancer to get top degree 'stronger than ever'


Sarah is back to full health after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Sarah is back to full health after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Sarah is back to full health after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma

A woman who had cancer surgery two months before sitting her Leaving Certificate is about to graduate with a first-class honours degree.

Sarah O'Neill (22) is also about to qualify as a personal trainer and she is encouraging other young people going through a tough time not to compare themselves "to anybody other than you".

Sarah always liked going to the gym and it was only when what she thought was pain from a pulled muscle didn't go away that she went to the doctor and was ultimately told she had cancer.

Five years ago, she found out she had non-Hodgkin lymphoma and started chemotherapy the next day. Then followed surgery to remove the rest of the tumour and then radiotherapy.

Sarah, from Drogheda, said the gym work she had been doing before she got sick "really stood to me because of how well I came through treatment".

"Then getting back into the gym helped my confidence and my health, I am stronger than I have ever been both mentally and physically.


"I think sometimes people forget how good your body and your mind should feel and can feel, so look after them," she said.

Sarah secured 250 points in her Leaving Certificate which she was delighted with because "a month or two before the Leaving Cert, it was touch and go on whether I was going to be able to do it. I was delighted to even get through it."

She was offered a place on what was her final CAO option: a three-year Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Society in DCU, and although she did not know much about it when she put it down, "I loved it", she said.

Sarah also said "now I know what I am able for, I got a first-class honours".

She knows it is easy to get caught up in images on Instagram and other social media channels, particularly when comments are posted.

Her advice to other young people facing a challenge is - "once you do your best, don't compare yourself to anybody other than you".